Take some time to stop and look back at the first half of this year's rally season! The customer crews with ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo cars can be satisfied, as they are leading not only the WRC2 category but also the European Rally Championship (ERC).
THE HEAT IS ON | WRC2
Seven rallies into the 13 rounds season, two drivers of a ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo top the overall standings of the WRC2 Drivers’ classification. After category victory at Rally Estonia, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen of ŠKODA Motorsport backed team Toksport WRT regained the lead. LOTOS Rally Team’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz, WRC2 winner at the Safari Rally Kenya, follows only three points behind.
After two WRC2 victories at Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rally Sweden at the beginning of the season, Mikkelsen had to live with two retirements in Portugal and Italy. The Norwegian and co-driver Torstein Eriksen skipped the WRC rounds in Croatia and Kenya, as all WRC2 drivers can anyway score points on not more than seven rallies.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who had waived Rallye Monte-Carlo, Rally Sweden and Rally Sardinia-Italy, made the clever move and travelled to East Africa, eventually being one of only two leading WRC2 competitors present at the Safari Rally Kenya. The Polish ace and co-driver Maciej Szcze- paniak survived the fesh-fesh covered stages in the Lake Naivasha area and duly won. “I have never experienced such conditions in my career. This is the hardest WRC round and it’s amazing to win”, Kajetanowicz beamed at the finish line. With his first ever WRC2 victory, “Kajto” took temporarily over the lead in the WRC2 Drivers’ classification.
When Rally Estonia kicked off three weeks later in Tartu, Mikkelsen/Eriksen were back in action. From the word “go”, the Norwegians fought for the WRC2 lead, amongst others against their Toksport WRT teammates Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen. The reigning Finnish champions occupied P1 for some stages, until a puncture cost them nearly a minute. Now in the lead, Mikkelsen/Eriksen managed to fend off the charging Hyundai crew Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula for the remainder of the rally and celebrated their third WRC2 victory of the season. “The conditions were very tricky with lots of standing water in the ruts. We had quite some aquaplaning,” Mikkelsen said after the final leg in heavy rain. With Kajetanowicz finishing fifth, Mikkelsen was back on top of the WRC2 Drivers’ classification.
WRC2 Junior saw a Toksport WRT internal duel between Lindholm/ Hämäläinen and Marco Bulacia/Diego Vallejo. After Lindholm’s puncture, the newly formed Bolivian-Spanish crew comfortably led the class – untile they rolled in the penultimate stage and handed the WRC2 Junior trophies to Lindholm/Hämäläinen. In the overall standings, Lindholm closed the gap to leader Chris Ingram and second placed Nikolay Gryazin, two more drivers of Toksport WRT run ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo.
Standings WRC2 Drivers
|1. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)||ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||79 points|
|2. Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL)||ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||76 points|
|3. Yohan Rossel (FRA)||Citro¨en C3 Rally2||63 points|
|4. Nikolay Gryazin (ANA)||ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||52 points|
|5. Jari Huttunen (FIN)||Ford Fiesta Rally2||45 points|
Standings WRC2 Junior
|1. Chris Ingram (GBR)||ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||67 points|
|2. Nikolay Gryazin (ANA)||ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||61 points|
|3. Emil Lindholm (FIN)||ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||58 points|
ONE HAND ALREADY ON THE TROPHY | ERC
Six of the scheduled eight rounds of the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) are already in the books. And Efrén Llarena and co-driver Sara Fernández of ŠKODA Motorsport customer team MRF Tyres comfortably lead their respective classifications. So far, the two Spaniards have won one event. At Rally Azores, Llarena/Fernández overtook local ŠKODA compatriots Ricardo Moura/António Costa during the rally ending Power Stage. They won by a mere 2.7 seconds – one of the closest victories in the ERC history and the first ERC success for the Spanish duo and team MRF Tyres.
At the six rallies already contested, ŠKODA crews climbed the highest step on the podium three more times. Mikołaj Marczyk/Szymon Gospordarczyk (ORLEN Team) won their home rally Rajd Polski, their first ever ERC victory. Mārtiņš Sesks/Renars Francis of team MRF Tyres pulled off the coup of winning all twelve gravel stages of Rally Liepāja in Latvia. Consequently, the local heroes celebrated a convincing victory, also a ERC first for Sesks. Last weekend’s Rally di Roma Capitale ended with a close victory of Meteco Corse’s Damiano de Tommaso/Giorgia Ascalone over Simone Campedelli/Tania Canto of team MRF Tyres.
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